Of course, technologies such as "Infinity Recycling" still require packaging to enter the appropriate facilities to be truly recycled. Brands such as Kiehl’s take the initiative in packaging collection through in-store recycling programs. "Thanks to the support of our customers, we have recycled 11.2 million product packages worldwide since 2009. We are committed to recycling another 11 million packages by 2025," Kiehl’s global director Leonardo Chavez wrote in an email from New York.
Small changes in life can also help solve the recycling problem, such as setting up a recycling trash can in the bathroom. "Usually, there is only one trash can in the bathroom, so everyone puts all the trash together," Meysselle said. "We think it is important to encourage everyone to recycle in the bathroom."
Considering the multiple obstacles to recycling, we must realize that there is no single solution to the garbage problem in the beauty industry. Not only plastics, but also the recycling of other materials such as glass and aluminum. Wingstrand said: "Recycling alone cannot solve all problems."
Bio-based plastics such as sugar cane and corn starch cannot be defeated by a single move, although such plastics are often claimed to be biodegradable. "There is no standard definition of'biodegradable'; it only means that packaging will decompose at a certain time and under certain conditions," Wingstrand said. "There are clear restrictions on'compostable'; however, compostable plastics will not be in any environment. Some materials actually take a long time to degrade. We must consider them comprehensively."
In summary, reducing packaging as much as possible-reducing the need for recycling and composting from the source-is the key to solving the problem. "Removing the plastic film around the perfume box is a simple and feasible example. If you don't use it, there will be no problems at all." Wingstrand explained.
Another solution is to use reusable packaging to complement the product—customers keep the packaging and only need to purchase the complementary product—many people advertise this as the future of beauty packaging. "In general, we have seen the beauty industry start to accept the concept of product supplements, which can save a lot of packaging," Chavez said. "This is our focus area."
But what's the problem with it? Many supplement products are designed in bags and these bags are not recyclable. Wingstrand said: "When designing a supplement, make sure that the supplement is not more difficult to recycle than the original product packaging. The key is to consider every detail."
Obviously, Panacea does not exist. Fortunately, consumers can demand environmentally friendly packaging, forcing more companies to invest in innovative solutions to drive change. "The response from consumers is amazing. Since we launched our sustainability program, the company has grown like a start-up," Meysselle added. He also called on all brands to work together to achieve a zero-waste future: "Going it alone must lose, and we must win together."